I like being correct; most of the time anyway. When I know for sure that I am, I’m not afraid to argue my points until kingdom come.

last word

Every once in a while though, I realize that it’s time to leave an argument or discussion alone, or let someone else have the last word, either because neither side is going to budge or because the conversation will never end if I keep it going. The last thing I’m interested in, if it’s not business, is beating a dead horse into the ground. Thus, I’ve had to learn how to let someone else have the last word and move on.

I have to admit this type of thing took a little while for me to learn how to do outside of business. An old friend Dee used to say I had to always be right. I used to tell her that I was right because I WAS right, and I could prove it. She said that sometimes people need to believe what they need to believe and that I didn’t have to prove how smart I was.

As a sidebar, I always felt I had to prove how smart I was. This was back in the 80’s, when there were still a lot of white people who I felt saw me as mentally inferior to them… or might have if I hadn’t let them know pretty quickly that it wasn’t the case. I used to bowl 4 or 5 times a week back then, and every week I took a book with me that was either on history, science or ethics; nothing frivolous from me.

This extended into debates or arguments. Unless it was opinionated things (such as arguing whether Pearl Washington was more valuable than Patrick Ewing), I never got into a debate if I didn’t know I was absolutely correct. Back in the day before social media, I never had a political discussion with anyone because everyone I was associated with believed as I did. In those cases, it was easy to let someone else have the last work., since I rarely took a strong position on things I wasn’t completely sure or reasonably of.

When it gets into opinions, I’ve learned that everyone has their idea of what’s right or wrong, and and unless it’s a conversation about race or other isms or something that will impact me greatly (such as health care coverage) I’ve learned that it’s not worth the consternation in trying to get someone to see things my way.

So I’ve learned that lesson in my personal life; what about my professional life?

Once again, it depends on whether it’s something related to what I might be doing for someone else. When it comes to my health care finance skills and I’m working as a consultant, I’m probably going to make sure I get the last word. If it’s related to leadership, even though I believe I know what I’m talking about, when all is said and done there’s more than one way to lead that works well. In those instances I’m probably not going to worry much about getting the last word in; it’s more important to make sure I’m understood, whether or not someone agrees with me. In work situations, however, I may go that extra mile here and there to get my point across.

When you’re in a leadership position, you’re going to learn pretty early that you’re not always correct. Sometimes it’s hard to people in leadership to believe that, instead thinking others expect them to know everything and always be right.

The problem is that leaders also can’t be wishy-washy. Although there are times when leaders need to let someone else have the last word, there are also times when the leader needs to lead.

The dicey part is dichotomic. If you argue a point, give up on it, then are proven right later on, you’ll take the blame for not being able to convince people you were right to begin with. If you argue your point, then prove to be right, you may or may not get credit for it, but you certainly won’t be condemned for being correct.

Leaders need to learn how to let others get the last word in every once in a while. Not when it concerns procedures, but sometimes when it concerns behaviors. Handle business the way it’s supposed to be handled, sometimes let people vent and deal with it after the fact if necessary. The reality about good communications is that it’s supposed to be a dialogue, not a lecture.

Is this something you’re good at? Comment and let me know.
 

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